questions about meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

questions about meditation

Postby salaatti » Mon Sep 21, 2009 4:01 pm

Ajahn Chah said this about the beginning of the meditation.

"Fix your attention at the head and move it down through the body to the tips of the feet, and then back up to the crown of the head. Pass your awareness down through the body, observing with wisdom. We do this to gain an initial understanding of the way the body is. Then begin the meditation, noting that at this time your sole duty is to observe the inhalations and exhalations."

How long should this "body-scan" last and how thoroughly this should be done?
And I also have another thing in mind. Jack Kornfield (student of Ajahn Chah's) mentioned that we should:
"Use the sensation, the direct experience of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils, as the point of concentration."

Did Ajahn Chah also teach to use the nostrils as an object of concentration?

thanks!
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby BlackBird » Mon Sep 21, 2009 10:21 pm

To answer your first question. Maybe take a couple of minutes. It's nothing major, just a technique that helps bring some mindfulness to the fore. This is good, as mindfulness is critical to the development of concentration.

We were taught during a retreat by Ajahn Tiradhammo to go slowly from the nose, eyes, forehead, scalp, top of the head, back of the head ... all the way down the back of the body, bringing awareness to each specific area of the outer form, all the way up the front, back up to the nose.

The answer to your second question:

Q: Can we focus on the tip of the nose?
Ajahn. Chah wrote:AC: That’s fine. Whatever suits you, whatever you feel comfortable with and helps you fix your mind, focus on that.

It’s like this: in teaching meditation, if we get attached to the ideals and take the guidelines too literally, it can be difficult to understand. When doing a standard meditation, such as anapanasati, first we should make the determination that right now, we are going to do this practice, and we take anapanasati as our foundation. We turn our attention to only focusing on the breath, at three points, as it passes through the nostrils, the chest, and the abdomen. When the air enters, it first passes the nose, then through the chest, then to the end point of the abdomen. As it leaves the body, the beginning is the abdomen, the middle is the chest, and the end is the nose.

We merely note it. This is a way to start controlling the mind, tying awareness to these points at the beginning, middle, and end of the inhalations and exhalations.

Before we begin, we should sit and let the mind relax first. It’s similar to doing something like sewing on a machine. When we are learning to use the sewing machine, first we just sit in front of the machine to get familiar with it and feel comfortable. Here, we just sit and breathe. Not fixing awareness on anything, we merely take note that we are breathing. We take note of whether the breath is relaxed or not and how long or short it is. Having noticed this, then we begin focusing on the inhalation and exhalation at the three points.

We practice like this until we become skilled in it and it is going smoothly. Then the next stage is to focus awareness only on the sensation of the breath at the tip of the nose or the upper lip. At this point we aren’t concerned with whether the breath is long or short, but only focus on the sensation of entering and exiting.


- http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... _Doubt.htm

Bear in mind that it's not the nostrils that is our object of concentration, it is the breathing through the nostrals. We're picking a point of contact and just being aware of the feeling of the air passing over it.

Metta
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"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:13 pm

Greetings Salaatti,

salaatti wrote:How long should this "body-scan" last and how thoroughly this should be done?

Questions like this are tricky to answer because there are no explicit references that I'm aware of in the Sutta Pitaka, and I've not seen it explicitly referred to in any Pali commentarial literature.

Thus, body scan is a "technique" that someone has developed in order to fulfil the method detailed in suttas such as the Satipatthana Sutta. As such, you're best to ask someone who has had success with the technique, whilst bearing in mind that the Buddha himself was not prescriptive about this, so perhaps the answer needn't be a prescriptive one either.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: questions about meditation

Postby Moggalana » Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:07 am

Regarding the area of concentration, I've always found Ajahn Brahm's instruction to be helpful:
Ajahn Brahm wrote:When you focus on the breath, you focus on the experience of the breath happening now. You experience `that which tells you what the breath is doing', whether it is going in or out or in between. Some teachers say to watch the breath at the tip of the nose, some say to watch it at the abdomen and some say to move it here and then move it there. I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath. In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere! If you locate the breath at the tip of your nose then it becomes nose awareness, not breath awareness, and if you locate it at your abdomen then it becomes abdomen awareness. Just ask yourself the question right now, "Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?" How do you know? There! That experience which tells you what the breath is doing, that is what you focus on in breath meditation. Let go of concern about where this experience is located; just focus on the experience itself.

http://www.jhanagrove.org.au/meditation.html
Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:12 am

I think its worth noting that Ajahn Chah recommended different variations on the basic methods depending on the person he was talking to.
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby salaatti » Tue Sep 22, 2009 12:13 pm

So:
Ajahn Brahm said:
"I have found through experience that it does not matter where you watch the breath. In fact it is best not to locate the breath anywhere!"

Ajahn Chah said:
"We practice like this until we become skilled in it and it is going smoothly. Then the next stage is to focus awareness only on the sensation of the breath at the tip of the nose or the upper lip."


And Bhante Vimaralmsi said:
"The Buddha never mentioned nostril, or body in any way outside of relaxing. Most times when you have instructions on meditation, they tell you to put your attention on one particular place in your body. But the Buddha, if he thought that was important, he would have said it very specifically. If you put your attention on one particular place in your body, you have the tendency to really focus very hard at that one place. But the Buddha did say you understand when you breathe in long and when you breathe out long, or short. So it’s just knowing the breath, not focusing on the breath, but seeing the breath clearly."


now I'm confused :coffee:
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby appicchato » Tue Sep 22, 2009 12:46 pm

salaatti wrote:...now I'm confused :coffee:


It's only going to get more confusing friend...so called *'teachers' are coming out of the woodwork every day, and will continue to do so...pick whatever method you're comfortable and go with it...it's not a big deal...

If I were asked I'd say read what the Buddha had to say on the matter...did he mention where to focus on the breath?...not to my knowledge...if it was that important (I believe) he would have told us...

* this is not a disparagement toward any of the above quoted teachers...

Be well... :smile:
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby salaatti » Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:08 pm

Thanks appicchato. :smile: Is there different results from doing one one-pointed concentration and meditation described by Ajahn Brahm and Vimalaramsi?
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:40 pm

Greetings salaatti ,

There are several approaches to Theravada meditation and different teachers emphasise different things, so what they say is bound to seem contradictory since they are trying to keep it simple by only telling you what they find is most helpful for their students in the approach that they teach.

Ajahn Brahm is teaching a concentration practise and his instructions to just have a general idea of breathing in or out are excellent for that. Others are teaching with more of an "insight" orientation, where you want to be focussed on the actual sensations.

If you are a beginner then my advice is to follow the instructions of your teacher (or a particular teacher's book/web site, etc) for at least a few months. Once you have an experiential understanding of one approach it will become much clearer.

For example, if you want to use Ajahn Brahm's method then go to http://bswa.org/ and download the first few chapters of his book, Minfulness, Bliss, and Beyond (click on the book on the home page) and order a copy. Go to the guided meditation podcasts and download some of his guided meditations.

If you want to use Bhante Vimalaramsi's method, go to http://www.dhammasukha.org/ and download his instructions, guided meditations, etc...

And so on...

Metta
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby EOD » Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:43 pm

salaatti wrote:Is there different results from doing one one-pointed concentration and meditation described by Ajahn Brahm and Vimalaramsi?

Although both Ajahn Brahm and Bhante Vimalaramsi mention not to observe the breath at a certain spot, their descriptions of the jhanas appear totally different from each other. So the outcome doesn't seem to depend much on the location (if any) where you observe the breath.

Best wishes,

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Re: questions about meditation

Postby Dmytro » Wed Sep 23, 2009 8:51 am

Hi Salaatti,

In Anapanasati and Satipatthana sutta it is recommended to establish remembrance (sati) near the mouth (parimukhaṃ), in the region between mouth and nostrils:

http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... opic=21109

However the suttas also instruct to breath feeling the whole body.

There's no contradiction here. The point of contact with the air between nostrils and mouth is used to obtain the perceptual image (nimitta) of the air-element. And simultaneously the whole body has to be felt and taken into account, to spread the nimitta on the whole body and attain one-pointedness of mind.

Metta, Dmytro
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Re: questions about meditation

Postby salaatti » Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:11 am

thank you guys :smile:

In Anapanasati and Satipatthana sutta it is recommended to establish remembrance (sati) near the mouth (parimukhaṃ), in the region between mouth and nostrils:

Oh, I had got the exact opposite idea. Maybe I'll try to practice according to this then
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